When critics are clamoring to dub an album released in January the best of the year, they are either completely caught up in the hype machine or they have a legitimately incredible record on their hands. In Animal Collective’s case, the latter holds true. Merriweather Post Pavilion is the group’s ninth full-length release, and it finds them taking a full stride forward with their sound. Panda Bear is back at the helm this time out (replacing Avey Tare, who was the primary force behind the Collective’s lackluster 2007 effort, Strawberry Jam) bringing his newly discovered passion for electronic dance music into the mix, and the results blow away pretty much everything else the band has done to date. The rough-hewn ambiance of their earlier work has been all but abolished, while the raucous drum circle routines of more recent releases have been reined in to create a lush and hypnotic listening experience that is alternately propulsive and meditative, flitting between droney balladry and mantra-esque pop constructions. If there was ever any doubt that Animal Collective are a Beach Boys for the new generation, Merriweather Post Pavilion should silence the last of the naysayers, while landing the group quite a few best of ’09 nods come December.
File Under: Caribou, Beach Boys, Gang Gang Dance